4 minute read

Earlier this week, Apple released iTunes 5 and the iPod nano. I didn’t write anything about either because I’m not particularly impressed by either. I’m even less impressed with the iTunes phone aka Motorola ROKR. I should say something though.

iTunes 5

This is perhaps one of the most pathetic iTunes’ “upgrades” yet. No, it wasn’t worthy of a first digit number change. 5.0 doesn’t have to follow 4.9 either. They could have continued with 4.10. There’s even an implicit acknowledgment of this by Apple illustrated by the lack of a color change in the icon. Every other first digit change brought a new number. I love green, but it’s getting stale.

Versiontracker has the following as the updated features:

  • New Look – Streamlined design makes iTunes even easier to use.
  • Search Bar – Find stuff fast and refine your search with the handy new Search Bar.
  • Smart Shuffle – Adjust random playback to hear what you want.
  • Sync from Outlook – iTunes now supports iPod syncing for Outlook and Outlook Express on Windows PCs.
  • Playlist Folders – Organize all your playlists into folders.
  • Parental Controls – Limit kids’ access to the iTunes Music Store and sharing features.
  • Album Reviews – Browse over 1,000 album reviews.
  • The Complete Harry Potter – Download all six audiobooks or the Digital Box Set and add the collector’s iPod with Hogwarts crest.
  • iTunes for Your Mobile Phone – Sync music to the Motorola ROKR E1.

First, what I don’t really care about. Sync from Outlook is worthless because I’m using a Mac and even if I were using Windows, I’d have to be brain dead to use Outlook or Outlook Express. Parental Controls may be interesting to some, but I don’t have kids and even if I did, trying to use automated censorship is lame (in my opinion). The Complete Harry Potter is just content, not a feature. Besides, $250 to listen to all of the Harry Potter books when I could buy all of them for probably less than $30? Sounds a little foolish. Finally, support for the ROKR is lost on me because of reasons I’ll list below.

The new Search Bar is an incremental improvement. Hardly mindblowing.

Playlist Folders are neat, but they don’t show up on my iPod.

The Album Reviews are good, but they go into that category of iTunes Music Store content and not features.

Smart Shuffle is good for some people, but the response it’s getting is extremely irritating. “I’m glad they made shuffle more random.””Shuffle is more powerful.” Steve himself said it. Smart Shuffle isn’t more random. It’s less. Part of truly random shuffling is the possibility of having several songs by the same artist in a row. As for “more powerful”, there’s more computation necessary, but I’m not sure that qualifies as more powerful.

The biggest change by far was in the New Look. iTunes has a much debated entirely new look. I’m on the fence about it. The purist in me really dislikes it. The user in me thinks it looks slick. I don’t like the custom corner radius. I like the lack of margins. I dislike the fact that the lack of margins makes it harder to adjust the size of elements. I like the way the background looks and the glassy look of the readout. I’m not going to chide Apple like some self appointed expert, but I will say that I’m not a fan. I really like consistency, which is what keeps me using the Mac platform.

iPod Nano

It’s a smaller capacity replacement for the iPod mini. I’m not exactly why Apple felt it necessary to drop the iPod mini completely. The iPod line is getting rather complicated, so some consolidation was a good idea from a marketing standpoint, but the mini had some things that the nano doesn’t.

It was bigger for one. The iPod mini was almost getting into the storage capacity that I could consider getting one. They may have hit a ceiling, but I’m not sure that’s a reason to dump it until the nano matches or surpasses it.

The iPod nano also can’t be used over a Firewire connection. I have USB 2.0 on all my Macs, but not all Mac users do. Sure, the old adage of “you need the latest to use the latest” applies, but part of iPod mini’s audience were users with small hard drives that could possibly fill up a regular iPod.

I think it’s a neat choice for many people, but I’ll still miss the mini.

Motorola ROKR

Two words describe why I won’t be getting one of these: service provider. As much as I dislike Verizon’s landline services (and their associated cost), their wireless is great. I get good signal everywhere. I’m not moving to Cingular. I’m getting tired of the fact that I can’t get cool phones because they’re tied to a single incompatible service type. Phone makers, please make cross-service phones. I want to buy the phone I want to use with the service I want. Unfortunately, when it comes to choosing the phone or service, I’ll pick the service every time.